How Do We Cope With Tragedy and Depression?

Tragedy seems to happen on a weekly basis these days. Some are weather related, out of our control. Some are gun related, in our control, in a very loose sense. I’m not here to tell you about gun law, debate who is at fault or anything other than how we as people can talk about it. Most of us now don’t talk using our mouths, but with our fingers, on Facebook, Twitter and all other social media outlets. But how can we truly discuss anything on a social media feed in a productive manner? Is anyone brave enough to admit they are having problems, suffering, or even bring up mental illness?

Take Facebook, for example. If you want to simply post something like, “Thoughts and prayers are with the people in Connecticut”, you end up with an ongoing thread on how guns aren’t the problem, how people are the problem or why Romney should have won the election. It’s utterly ridiculous. If you post a tweet saying something along the lines of, “I’m really saddened by the acts of people using guns in our country”, you get hate tweets back saying bla bla this NRA or bla bla that GUNS.

Our country is so divided on issues; you can’t even make a statement on a platform that is filled with your friends without it turning into a pointless and heated debate. We, as in, we the people, as in our country, have a very real problem. F*** social media and listening to uneducated people who don’t look at policy or statistics and just rally off talking points on their behalf – that gets us nowhere.

We have a very serious need for mental illness support. I myself have suffered from very serious depression, and it took years but I finally found help. We CANNOT have it take years for others who are suffering in similar ways, be it severe mental illness, mild depression or anxiety, on a large scale or a minimal one.

One of my worst characteristics is that I’m super self-conscious, I always want anybody, everybody, to think I’m doing life right. So for me to admit this to thousands of readers is hard, but if I do it, you can do it, and if you can do it, another person will do it, and hopefully it will spread, and the people who need help most will know they can do it to.

For four years now I’ve battled depression. Is it ironic that I own a publication called Serial Optimist while at times I couldn’t leave my room for days? Sure it is. Did I feel like making other people smile would make me smile? I don’t know. I didn’t give a shit about me smiling. I didn’t give a shit about anything. I didn’t understand why I felt the way I felt, why I couldn’t remember what day it was or why I couldn’t make a decision about what I was supposed to eat for dinner or let alone do with my life.

I took medications that didn’t work, but I didn’t really seek help. You don’t want it. You don’t think you deserve it. You’re embarrassed. Ashamed. You can’t tell people you have anxiety, or are depressed, because how are they going to respond? It makes you anxious just thinking about it. You don’t want to know what they will say. Because it’s embarrassing…shameful…

So it’s hard to find the right people to try and understand. I remember someone saying, “Just man up!” and “If you can’t sleep at night, just go to bed and stop thinking about everything.” And you can only say, “Yeah, sure, I’ll do that”, while thinking “YEAHH, thanks, duh, this whole time I just forgot to man up! I’ll just STOP being bummed, bro!” Lots of people just don’t understand. But the point of these words you’re so kindly reading is that LOTS OF PEOPLE DO UNDERSTAND.

I’m not gay, but for some reason I feel like maybe finally coming out and admitting that suffering from depression, clinical depression or mental illness, is relatable in a way to finally coming out and saying you’re a homosexual. RELIEF. Then you realize: IT’S OKAY. You see life again, and it’s not like butterflies are landing on your arms and birds are singing your name, but you see life and are ready to battle again. You’re ready to fight!

These words aren’t supposed to be a bummer; I am an optimist, enthusiastic and positive, and when I’m myself, I’m big time smiles. But sometimes you lose yourself, and you don’t want to go searching. If you had a disease that was damaging your life but accepted amongst society, would you hide it? Probably not. Depression is a disease. With a cure. With therapy and medication and support, you can beat it, and you can start to live again.

I won’t accept that I live in a generation that frowns (pun!) upon depression. I will no longer justify it. I will accept depression and mental illness and get over it, but am also trying to tell you that saying “I will accept it and get over it” doesn’t work. You have to go get help. Get on the right medication. Get therapy. Therapy is great, and if anyone gives you a confused look about it, who cares? Who wouldn’t want to talk to someone who can’t judge you and just listens to all your s**t? If you don’t have these resources, know that you do have these resources, just get the nerve to find where they are wherever you live. There are state funded facilities if you are low income, or no income. Walk into a hospital and say, “I’m not right, I need help”. Use any resource you can to get help; it’s there for you, so don’t hide from it. Do we need more resources? Absolutely. But for now, take advantage of what is available, and I’ll say it again: help is always available.

We have a very serious gun problem. Assault rifles should not be readily available – that is just fact. People should not be able to buy guns online – that is just fact. How can so many facts be facts yet also be “not true”? Whoa, hey! FACTS ARE TRUE. THIS IS REAL. Kids are dying, adults are dying. People aren’t just being shot, mass murders are happening. Some cities have a higher death rate per week than countries that are at war. I wish I was making that up.

Again, I’m not smart enough to throw stats and resources and all the other things people usually scream. I am smart enough to know when it’s time; IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE regarding the way our country deals with guns and mental illness.

I’ll end it with this: Guns are easy to get. But you know what’s even easier to get? Mental health care.

Image via ShutterStock

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